My interest in fencing began when I was at Purdue University where I started my formal training as a requirement to take a “gym” class.  After graduating from Purdue I dropped fencing until about 8 years ago.  When I restarted my interest in blades I had no idea that I would be following such an interesting path—a path replete with fun, challenge and discipline.

Initially my intentions had nothing to do with teaching, coaching or organizing River City Fencing.  Frankly, I liked the idea of driving to the salle, handing Will Read $5.00 and bouting for an hour.  Helping with the administration of the salle was out of the question in my mind.  I had too much to do working and performing magic at trade shows for Show & Tell Marketing.  Over time, however, I was thought to be one of the stalwart members of the club, and, certainly, I was the oldest.  When Mr. Read left for professional reasons there were few choices for River City Fencing.  The conversation went approximately like this, “Mark you are the oldest member of the club.  If River City Fencing is to continue it will be up to you.”  I had no choice, but I did not prefer another outcome.  I felt obligated and honored.

This weekend will provide a highpoint in my fencing career, because I am standing for my USFCA Moniteur practical examination overseen by the keen eyes of Maestro Lawrence Schiller of Northwestern University. This is one of those things I never intended to do, but I now welcome the opportunity to establish my credentials and improve the overall standing of River City Fencing.  Should I pass the examination, I’ll quietly smile looking back at the time when I handed Will Read $5.00 and fenced for an hour.

I owe everything I know about fencing to Prevot Paul Geraci who encouraged me to sit for the written and stand for the practical USFCA examinations.  Prevot Geraci is one of the finest fencing instructors available with a legitimate pedigree of masters and coaches.  I once asked him about the patch he shows on his master’s jacket.  “Oh that?  That’s my family’s fencing crest.” You don’t hear that daily.  Paul has a boundless cache of fencing history and his teaching skills are astonishing.  He senses timing and distance errors before I make them, and he’s provided challenges I never thought I’d overcome.  He often builds the fencing lesson as if it were a musical piece interpreted by the finest of metropolitan symphony maestros.  This is no coincidence, by the way, as Dr. Geraci is a professor of music at St. Joseph College here in Indiana.  I won’t be humble here.  I’m a much better fencer than I was years ago, but it is only because of Paul’s quiet but insistent demand of precision.  He’s never raised his voice but to cheer for me.  A well crafted phrase will, occasionally, elicit, “Bravo!”   I’ve studied hundreds of hours under his direction , and I can only hope for hundreds more.  His intuition and insight for fencing are unequaled, I’m certain.

And, so, I’ll see how it goes this weekend.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to dine with friends on Saturday evening and quietly boast to them my new title of Moniteur d’ Fleuret—not that they will know what that means or even care.

Mark Brandyberry

Summer 2011